For years it’s been obvious to me that the medical device industry is being radically disrupted by the mobile industry to the point where we’ll see it’s industry converge just like we saw Photography, Computing, Messaging, etc in the Nokia Decade. With Samsung now the newest big healthcare brand, smartphone cases that can enable your smartphone to capture and share an ECG available for less than $200, and FDA cleared medical devices now having their own embedded (Kindle style) mobile connectivity it’s becoming obvious to everyone but I think the video above showing how the ‘born mobile’ generation is baffled by the Sony Walkman really highlights the challenge the medical device industry faces.
One look at the current crop of medical devices being used by Patients and it should be obvious that the lack of thoughtful design and encyclopaedia-sized printed instruction manuals are going to generate frowns of frustration in a child who struggles to even work out the point of a Walkman, or the concept of using a mechanism to wind spools of tape around to select a tune:
“So mum let me get this straight. My Blood Glucose levels are very very important and I need to prick my finger to test it regularly. Each little box of strips costs $50. Everytime I go to the Hospital costs thousands of $’s and you want me to remember how to act based on the number that appears on the monochrome LCD screen and I’m also supposed to text you these numbers every time I test even if I’m at school… …oh and I need to always carry this boring device and the lancing and strip kit and we need to keep a record of my results to share with the Doctor (or Hospital if I ever get rushed there). Okay I get it but can you explain why the inexpensive thermostat we have in the house is smarter, better looking and easier to use than this expensive and supposedly high tech medical device?”
In my consulting work advising medical device companies I nearly always start the talk by asking if anyone has ever seen a printed instruction manual for the iPad. Smart people in the audience say there never was one and I then produce the one I was supplied with for my ‘iPad’ AED. It’s a great way to start a conversation about how the medtech industry fails in basic design when we discuss why the life saving $2500 “intelligent” defibrillator device that I carry everywhere in my car and am expected to use in the event of an emergency requires a detailed manual to operate and isn’t connected (that’s right there’s no Find My iPad for the iPad that’s apparently been designed to be used to save lives in an emergency).
*** *** UPDATE: 16 SEPTEMBER 2015 *** ***
Roger Cheng at CNet reports on how a prototype ‘smart’ wheelchair features embedded cellular connectivity that enables it to “send repair notices, health alerts… …(illustrating) the benefits of connected devices”.
In the automobile industry this is already commonplace on vehicles costing much less than $35,000 and from March 2018 every new car/light-van sold within the European Union will feature the ‘eCall’ emergency alert system that automatically reports time/location and vehicle make/model in the event of an accident occurring.
This legislation has been introduced despite the campaigning efforts of countless privacy campaigners whose objections wouldn’t apply in this instance so I wonder how (with an additional cost of less than $100) a top of the range wheelchair retailing at $35,000 doesn’t yet have embedded connectivity?